Drs. Shaywitz: Schools Need to Give Students with Dyslexia More Time on Tests
Dr. Sally Shaywitz accepts a children's book given in her honor to the Hollis-Hays Library at The Roberts Academy. The book was presented by Education major Brianna Bailey (right).
LAKELAND (Oct. 21, 2010) -- New research should persuade policy-makers that students with dyslexia should be given additional time to take high-stakes standardized tests, Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz told a crowd of parents and educators Wednesday evening during The Roberts Center for Learning and Literacy lecture. The lecture is part of FSC's Dedication Week celebration of The Roberts Academy, Florida's first transitional school for talented students with dyslexia.
The Drs. Shaywitz, co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and professors of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, recently published the results of their Connecticut Longitudinal Study, which followed 445 children from kindergarten through age 31. The study compared intelligence and reading levels in typical readers as well as children with dyslexia. The study showed that although the intelligence of typical readers progressed at about the same pace as their reading skills, there is a widening gap for students with dyslexia, whose reading skills lag even as their intelligence increases.
"This paper provides empirical scientific proof that dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty and it is unrelated to intelligence, motivation, education, and professional status," Dr. Sally Shaywitz said. "Current policies (in schools and government) do not reflect the scientific evidence."
Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, a child neurologist and neuroscientist, is a leader in applying functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand the neurobiology of reading and dyslexia in children and adults. He said the brain of a typical reader "lights up" at three specific areas one in front and two in the back of the left side of the brain when they process language. "The better the reader, the more active the systems in the back left side of the brain," he said.
When a person with dyslexia reads, only the one section in the frontal lobe is activated, showing an "inefficiency" in processing language, he said. Although the brains of people with dyslexia develop compensatory neural systems, he added, they will always read more slowly, which demonstrates the need for more time to complete tests.
Dyslexia does not subside in adulthood, but early interventions make it possible for people with dyslexia to learn to read at a high level if given sufficient time. Unfortunately, Dr. Sally Shaywitz said, young adults with dyslexia often sacrifice their social life because they spend so many long hours studying and have low self-esteem because of their struggles with reading.
"There are only 24 hours in a day, and they can't be all about work and catching up," she said. "As parents and educators, we want to preserve self-esteem, give unconditional love and support, and empower the child by letting him know the name of what he has and that it can be helped."
She added that The Roberts Academy is a wonderful environment for doing just that: "What a wonderful gift that the Robertses have given the community by providing a school that addresses these problems."